Eat, pray, love in Tagaytay

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FARM TO CAFE (bottom left) Fr. Tony Pernia, SVD invites everyone to hear mass at the Chapel of the Virgin of the Poor at the SVD Laudato Si Farm. Visit SVD Cafe after! —Margaux Salcedo

There’s a new farm with a chapel, cafe and pizzeria in Tagaytay where you can hear simbang gabi mass at 5:30 p.m. then have a cup of coffee after!

This is the SVD Laudato Si Farm run by the Divine Word missionaries. SVD stands for Society of the Divine Word (or Societas Verbi Divini, hence SVD) and the farm is located on the grounds of the SVD Seminary. It is along Arnoldus Road off Aguinaldo Highway. It is a gorgeous, sprawling 5-hectare green space within the even larger seminary compound.

As you enter the farm, you will notice that one side, marked by the life-size images of SVD founder St. Arnold Janssen and missionary St. Joseph Freinademetz, houses the greenhouses for their specialty greens, a pizzeria or what they call a pizzateria, and the SVD Cafe. On the other end, over yonder, you will see a Hollywood-type sign that reads SVD Farm. Near the cafe is the Chapel of the Virgin of the Poor, a quaint, wooden chapel without walls that is perfect for simbang gabi as one can almost imagine a donkey and manger in it. In fact, simbang gabi (dawn mass, though here held at dusk) is held daily now at 5:30 p.m. For Christmas and New Year’s day, masses are scheduled at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

After mass, make your way to the SVD Cafe, which offers excellent espresso, caramel macchiato and salted caramel latte, among other drinks. They also have tea, which I did not try but just the aroma was already calming. Beside the cafe there are little huts (bahay kubo) where you can hang out as a group.

Adjacent to the cafe is a pugon pizzeria. I was not able to try the pizza but anything cooked in a wood-fired oven is promising!

The farm is 6 hectares and named after the encyclical of Pope Francis, Laudato Si, the second encyclical of Pope Francis that has the subtitle “on care for our common home.” It’s the Pope’s statement against consumerism, irresponsible development and environmental degradation, where His Holiness calls for swift and unified global action to address climate change. The farm, in response to the call of Pope Francis, promotes “an environment-friendly atmosphere and ecological awareness.”

According to Divine Word Seminary rector Fr. Sam Agcaracar, the farm was born during the heavy quarantine days of the COVID-19 pandemic but inspired by Laudato Si, “to revive our moribund cosmic home through a six-pronged approach to sustainable development: farming, energy, water, livelihood, knowledge and lifestyle. This papal call finds timely resonance in the fourth SVD characteristic dimension: to promote justice, peace and integrity of creation.” It is “envisioned to be not only a school and showcase for organic farming, but also a spiritual oasis for contemplative communion with the Creator of Mother Nature.”

After coffee, try to visit the nearby garden with huge pine trees and an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, where you can offer a prayer for the healing of your loved ones and especially for the healing of the unloved ones!

They also accept reservations for retreats and recollections. If you want to make it extra special, ask for Fr. Antonio ‘Tony’ Pernia, SVD to give a talk. He was former superior general of the Divine Word Missionaries, based in Nemi, Italy, the first Filipino to be named superior general by his congregation back in 2000 (and who had coined the theme for the Philippines’ celebration of 500 Years of Christianity: ‘gifted to give’). Or ask for Fr. John O’ Mahony, an Irish priest whom we are lucky to have as a missionary priest in the Philippines. (I hope he can also make it his mission for the farm to offer Guinness on tap soon!)

While the farm and cafes were simply a pandemic project, today it is a place of rest and recreation, rejuvenation and inspiration, and best of all, worship. It’s an ideal destination for peace and calm, with Tagaytay air, of course, as another highlight. Make your way on Christmas day and every Sunday!

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